James Wan on Taking ‘Aquaman’ Seriously, But Not Too Seriously

Aquaman director James Wan is out to reclaim the sillier aspects of his aquatic superhero and show off what makes his beefy Justice Leaguer “super cool.”

“Like 70% of our planet is water, right? So in a lot of ways he is the most powerful superhero,” Wan told IMDb host Kevin Smith during San Diego Comic-Con. “So you know, I’m well aware going into this, that he has been somewhat of a joke in the superhero world for so long. And I’m not shying away from that, I’m leaning into it and taking what you think is a joke and trying to make it super cool.”

Wan took familiar iconography associated with the character in both classic Aquaman comic books and the 1970s Super Friends cartoon — namely Aquaman’s domesticated seahorses, re-imagined here as sea dragons — allowing his superhero blockbuster a lighter and more sprightly attitude not typically associated with Warner Bros.’ DC Films universe.

“My version of the seahorse is a sea dragon, or a super-charged seahorse, and they’re terrifying. They’re scary. You don’t want to go around one of these, because they will kill you,” Wan said, laughing.

“So they’re sort of the retro, sort of funny aspect that we’ve come to know from Super Friends and just embracing it, let people know that we know it’s funny, but have fun with it.”

That commitment to faithfully adapting the world of Aquaman but with a modern approach extended to the comic book-accurate Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), who menaces Jason Momoa’s Aquaman with a high-tech battle suit.

“I felt like it wasn’t broken, so why should I try and fix it, right?” Wan said. “But I tried to go that one step further and actually explained why his helmet is as big as it is [laughs]. So there’s a reason why his eyes look the way they look in the comics, but I tried to find an explanation for them.”

Wan, best known for his horror masterworks in the Saw and Conjuring franchises, said 2015 blockbuster Furious 7 — then his biggest undertaking — readied him for the rough seas sailed when making a large-scale superhero movie.

“I had Fast and Furious 7, which is probably one of the hardest movies anyone has to make, because of the circumstances. In some weird ways, it kind of prepared me for the difficulties this movie would face, and we did face,” Wan said.

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“But there’s really no easy scenes, you know? Even a simple scene of two people sitting around, standing around having a chat, having a dialogue, they’re all in rigs, or they’re wearing their costumes, their hair all tied up — because we would need to do CG hair and CG costumes, stuff like that — so that is considered an easy scene to shoot on this film.”

Aquaman, starring Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Patrick Wilson, Randall Park, Dolph Lundgren, Tempera Morrison, Djimon Hounsou, Willem Dafoe, and Nicole Kidman, opens December 21.